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Cricket: Fabian Vinet attends seminar in Lords on promoting cricket in cricket developing countries.

The seminar held towards the end of May, attempted to answer a rather complex question:

How do you raise public awareness of cricket in a country like Finland?

Part of the answer is clearly through the annual ECC Presidents’ Day at Lord’s. Last year one of the guests at Lord’s was Finland’s Deputy Sports Minister, former Olympic javelin thrower Tapio Korjus who had never seen the game played before. Given his own sporting background he was particularly intrigued by the technique of bowling, and he was impressed enough by the experience of the day to lend his weight to the Finnish Cricket Association’s efforts to establish the sport there. He now runs the Kuortane Sport Institute, where the FCA has their training base.

As a result, cricket is now recognised as a full member of the national sporting body, and the FCA has received a government grant of €25,000 and an offer of help with the formidable task of translating a coaching manual into Finnish. Not a bad pay-off from a day spent watching cricket at Lord’s!

This year’s event took in the third day of the First Test against Sri Lanka, and the guests included the Chef de Bureau des Federations Sportives of the French Ministry of Sport, M. Serge Agreke, and his wife, the Ministers of Sport of Gibraltar and Jersey, the Hon. Fabian Vinet and Senator Mike Vibert, and representatives of fifteen member countries of the ECC together with commercial partners, sponsors, and other key figures in the world of European cricket.

Welcoming the guests, ICC European Development Manager Richard Holdsworth emphasised the dependence of the ECC on the work of volunteers across Europe and on the support of cricket’s many sponsors.

‘It’s fantastic that we have so many good things going on,’ he said, noting that the number of players in the ECC’s 27 member nations had risen from 19,000 to 54,000 over the past five years.

This year’s guest list included for the first time the organisers of the ECC’s numerous tournaments, as well as tournament referees, umpires, and coaches.

For some of those present, as with Mr Korjus last year, this was a first opportunity to see top-level cricket, and you could hear quiet explanations of such intricacies as the front-foot no-ball law, following on, and how it has come about that Monty Panesar has, in the space of a few months, become both a figure of ridicule and a national icon. That, perhaps, is something only cricket could produce – although England’s former goalkeeper David Seaman achieved it towards the end of his career.

The Presidents’ Day was supported by MCC, who made both tickets and hospitality available for the sixty participants.

As a showpiece for cricket it is unparalleled, and as Sri Lanka began their epic second-innings resistance, with as yet only a hint of the slowly-unfolding drama of the Test’s final two days, there was much to enjoy for both seasoned cricket enthusiasts and those who were coming to terms with the experience for the first time.

‘How can you seriously enjoy a game that takes five days and then ends without a result?’ is a question cricketers are often faced with from sceptics. It is to be hoped that having spent an (admittedly chilly) Saturday at Lord’s will have helped to provide the ECC’s guests with a convincing answer.

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